Tuesday, October 10, 2023

I'm knitting! I'm a knitter! I knit something!

I have been so exhausted since finishing my thesis—like I just can hardly bring myself to do anything. To be fair, since finishing my thesis I went to Canada, had my basement flood, and our family has been sick for about a month. I also finished all the revisions for a paper that was just accepted for publication. I've been reading and researching a bit more to turn parts of my thesis into parts of a book proposal. I have also finished a couple of crochet projects and learned how to knit. Oh, and I'm teaching a ukulele class to a group of middle school boys (and one girl) and am still homeschooling the kids. And (daytime) potty trained Phoebe. And...and...and...

Okay. So perhaps I've accomplished a few things. I still just feel like I could sleep for a month. 

Anyway, Miriam taught me how to knit—and she was a wonderful teacher! She recently taught her fellow young women to knit over a series of evenings. They all made little square swatches that they plan to piece together to a make a little garland to hang in the Young Women's room. So Miriam had had a bit of practice showing others how to knit before she took me on as a pupil.

I was an anxious student because I had tried to learn to knit when I was much younger—around eight years old. Since my mom didn't know how to knit, she had procured a teacher for me, a woman in our ward who seemed to me to already be quite ancient: Sister Laura Vezeau. She was in her mid-seventies and all I knew about her was that (1) she was a widow, (2) she loved music and played the piano for primary, (3) she didn't drive, and (4) apparently she knew how to knit because my mom was taking me to her house so that she could teach me how to knit, too.

For several weeks I met with Sister Vezeau and she did her best to work me through the process of catching loops and yarning over and sliding loops from one hook to the other, and in the end I had a sloppy mess filled with dropped stitches, without ever quite being clear on what a knit was versus what a purl was. We never even got to casting off. 

I think I was quite a depressing student to teach, so slow to catch on was I.

We moved soon after I failed to learn how to knit and my needles went into my "someday I'll learn how to do this for real!" box and travelled the world with me. When Miriam expressed an interest in learning to knit, I pulled them out my 30-year-old needles, gifted them to her, showed her what the internet was,* and told her good luck (because they were still sitting in my box of wishful thinking). 

* Miriam already knew what the internet was and needed no direction in finding excellent tutorials.

Within a few hours Miriam was proficiently knitting. 

And then a few months later...she taught me how to knit!

Now, I don't know that this proves that Sister Vezeau was a bad teacher (she probably wasn't) or that I was a bad pupil (I probably was...n't?), but I will say that the internet is such a neat place. There are so many things that you can learn online and one of the benefits of, for example, video tutorials, is that you can make the instructor repeat something as many times as you want and the instructor never even gets a hint of annoyance in their voice. They just patiently explain exactly what they said over and over again.

One of my recent crochet projects was a little bluebird (as part of Benjamin's Halloween costume) and the woman who made the pattern filmed herself crocheting the bird from start to finish. I learned so many new techniques watching her (and pausing the video, and rewinding, and watching again, and skipping forward, and then pausing, and...). True, my project turned out a little wonky, but I was adjusting the pattern to suit my size and colour palette so didn't follow her instructions precisely (that's my bad). Still—I got through the whole thing and ended up with a bird!

All this is to say that Miriam taught herself how to knit by following online tutorials, and I think that's pretty cool. Among other little things, she's made a washcloth, and a pair of fingerless gloves, a little (cable-knit!) mug cozy, and is working on a sweater for herself. Oh, and she made a cute little reindeer hat for a new baby that will be arriving in December (whose impending arrival hasn't been announced yet because of...whatever who will remain anonymous (rest assured it's not mine!)). She got a little hung up on the antlers and was feeling frustrated, but I didn't know how to knit (yet, and even if I did I probably wouldn't have been able to help her get unconfused) so I told her to call one of her Young Women leaders, who is an avid knitter, and see if she could help her figure out the pattern. 

Miriam texted her (because what kind of ridiculousness would it have been to call someone—ha!) and then walked over to her house and they had everything sorted within five minutes. 

So I can't deny the value of in-person instruction. There are many resources for learning (and I just think that's so great). 

Miriam taught me how to cast on and do some knit stitches and then between that little instruction and a little bit of help from the internet, I managed to make a little swatch. Miriam was impressed by how quickly I caught on (and credits my years of crochet for making knitting come easier—though learning how to crochet was a whole other ball of wax) and challenged me to make a washcloth during General Conference. 

We were a tangled web of yarn and learning during conference weekend. I was learning how to knit, Benjamin and Andrew was learning how to crochet, Miriam was learning punch needle, and Rachel was supposed to be learning new crochet stitches to do some amigurumi (but I think she just worked on her temperature blanket). Everyone was teaching someone something at any given time and we had yarn and crochet hooks and knitting needles all over the place! But it was fun.

I finally finished my (wonky) washcloth today! It is riddled with mistakes (especially on the second half when I had tricky decreasing stitches plaguing me (increases are much easier!)), but I ended up with a nearly square and perfectly usable washcloth!

My inner 8-year-old self is so proud!

And if Sister Vezeau were alive today, I'm sure she'd be proud, too, because I'm pretty sure she thought I was a hopeless case. (She passed away on August 21, 2017, at the age of 101 (born October 5, 1915), sadly having outlived her husband** and a number of her children, as well as most (if not all) of her siblings (by more than a decade)).

I suppose that's one downside to teaching yourself something (or learning something through online tutorials)—the human connection, the genealogy of how you learned your craft. I suppose that Miriam can consider herself a pioneer of sorts. Or perhaps she'll consider the kind Sister who helped her work through a tricky pattern as one of her knitting fore-mothers. Whatever the case, Miriam is spreading her love of knitting and I hope her friends will remember her fondly when they pick up their knitting needles in the future.

Or perhaps I'm alone in associating experiences and tangible items so deeply with others. Perhaps I'm the only one who can't knit without thinking about Laura Vezeau, who tried so hard to teach me how to knit (or Miriam, who succeeded in doing what Sister Vezeau could not). Perhaps I'm the only one who can't pick up a new crochet project without thinking of Emily, who taught English with me in Voronezh, and who (patiently) taught me how to crochet. Akiko, who taught me to hold chopsticks. My mom (quizzically), who took me to the school parking lot and helped me learn how to ride my bike (quizzically because I've never seen my mom on a bike). Darlene, whenever I turn a cartwheel. Alison, whenever I hear a good cha-cha. 

I've had so many wonderful teachers in my life; I'm lucky my children are among them.

** Her obituary I did some more research and her first husband passed away in 1986, but they must have gotten divorced after their children were born. Her first husband remarried in 1950. Laura remarried in 1967, and then her second husband passed away only 8 years later (in 1975). She went by Sister Vezeau for another 42 years! 

1 comment:

  1. You may not remember, or maybe never knew, about Laura's connection to our family. Laura's niece Peggy married my cousin LeRoy, who grew up in Mountain View, the son of my mountain-climbing uncle Royal.